The Skills Debate 2016: The future world of work

As a leader in global skills development, the City & Guilds Group recognises its role in helping to connect governments, employers, education providers and individuals to make sure people have the skills they need to succeed in the global economy.

That is why on Monday, 20 June 2016, we brought together leading business figures to share their insights into what skills the future world of work will require, and the impact this will have on productivity and the international flow of skilled labour. The aim of the debate was to gain ideas towards a new economic model for skills.


The debate spanned a range of topics, including the rise of automation and artificial intelligence, the changing nature of work, and shifts to global demographics.

The event was hosted by the Rt. Hon. The Lord Mayor of London, Alderman Jeffrey Evans, on behalf of the City & Guilds Group and chaired by the BBC broadcaster and presenter, Andrew Neil. Our panel included thought leaders and experts from business, education, technology and economics. 

To read more about the debate, click here or you can watch the debate in full here.


Host: Andrew Neil

Andrew Neil has had a long career in political journalism and broadcasting. He has been the presenter of the BBC’s the Daily Politics and the Sunday Politics shows since 2003 and 2012 respectively.

He has been UK editor of The Economist, editor of The Sunday Times, executive chairman of Sky Television and publisher of The Scotsman Group of newspapers. He has presented Midnight Hour, Despatch Box, Tomorrow's World and The Risk Business. He serves as Chair of the Press Holdings Group, which owns The Spectator.

Andrew hosted lasted year's Skills Debate,

Panellist: Chris Jones

Chris Jones is CEO of the City & Guilds Group, a global leader in skills development. This includes City & Guilds activity as an awarding body in the UK, the Institute of Leadership and Management, international operations spanning 80 countries, City & Guilds Kineo which supports employers with learning technology and The Oxford Group. Chris joined the City & Guilds Group in March 2008 and has led the Group through a period of significant growth, which has enabled further investment in the organisation to benefit its clients and learners. Chris plays a prominent role in driving the national and international skills agenda – something he has personal experience of as he followed the vocational education path himself. He is a member of the Business in the Community Talent and Skills Leadership team and a Governor at the Activate Learning group of colleges, formerly the Oxford and Cherwell Valley College Group.

Before joining the City & Guilds Group, Chris held several senior management positions in Pearson and Reed Elsevier. In his former post, he transformed Harcourt Education International, implementing a customer-centric vision to grow revenue. Chris also served as Senior Vice President at LexisNexis Risk Management Group and Group Director at Financial Times Electronic Publishing.

Panellist: John Philpott

John Philpott is Director of The Jobs Economist, an independent online think tank and consultancy specializing in analysis of employment and pay trends and related public policy issues (

John began his career in higher education in the early 1980s and then from 1987- 2000 was Director of the Employment Policy Institute (EPI), an independent public policy think-tank.  From November 2000 to August 2012 he was Chief Economic Adviser at the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD). ​

John is a Fellow of the RSA, a member of the Society of Business Economists, and an Honorary Fellow of the Institute of Employment Studies. John is a former Specialist Adviser to the House of Commons Select Committee on Employment (from 1993-1996) and (in 2007) the House of Lords EU Select Committee. He has also advised numerous other UK and international bodies, including several UK government departments, the United Nations, the European Commission, the IMF, the OECD, the TUC, The Princes Trust, the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, the IPPR, the Resolution Foundation and the Fabian Society.

John is a regular media commentator and blogger on employment and workplace issues.

Panellist: Sherry Coutu

Sherry Coutu is a former CEO and angel investor who serves on the boards of companies, charities and universities. She chairs Founders4Schools and is a non-executive member of Cambridge University (Finance Board), Cambridge Assessment, Cambridge University Press and a NED of Zoopla and the London Stock Exchange Group. She also serves on the Advisory Board of

Since becoming an investor in 2000, she has worked with hundreds of entrepreneurs and specialised in consumer internet, information services and education. She was voted by TechCrunch as the best CEO mentor / advisor in Europe in Nov 2010. In May 2011, she was voted by Wired magazine as one of the top 25 'most influential people in the wired world', and one of the top ten most influential investors and women. In 2015 she was voted one of the most inspiring women in Europe and named as one of the most philanthropic entrepreneurs in the UK.

Coutu was given her CBE in the 2013 for her services to entrepreneurship.

Panellist: Sahar Hashemi

Sahar Hashemi founded Coffee Republic – the UK’s first US style coffee bar chain – with her brother and built it into one of the UK’s most recognised high-street brands with a turnover of £30m. Sahar was named ‘Pioneer to the life of the nation by Her Majesty The Queen and Young Global Leader by the World Economic Forum in Davos. She was also named one of 100 most influential women in Britain by Daily Mail.

Sahar was named ‘Pioneer to the life of the nation’ by Her Majesty The Queen and Young Global Leader by the World Economic Forum in Davos. She was also named one of 100 most influential women in Britain by Daily Mail and 35 top women in British business by Management Today.

In June 2012 Sahar was awarded an OBE in the Queen’s Birthday Honours list 'for services to the UK economy and to charity.'